|No. 22 Buckeyes host Nebraska hoping to increase win streak|
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The magic carpet ride that is Chris Holtmann's first season as Ohio state coach continues Monday night against Nebraska at Value City Arena.
The No. 22 Buckeyes improved their record to 17-4 overall and 8-0 in the Big Ten after breezing to a 67-49 victory over Minnesota on Saturday at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Ohio State not only brings a seven-game winning streak into the home matchup with Nebraska (14-7, 5-3), but Holtmann is the first coach in 95 years to win his first eight Big Ten games. Not since 1923 when Sam Berry won 11 in a row has anyone had that kind of success in his inaugural season.
The Big Ten record is a 12-0 start by Walter Meanwell at Wisconsin in 1912.
Holtmann has a realistic shot to approach the record based on the upcoming opponents, but Ohio State is turning its attention in the short term to Nebraska after the quick turnaround from Saturday and coming off three consecutive road games.
"I think our focus right now is to prepare for the next game, which is Nebraska at home," Ohio State senior forward Jae'sean Tate said after producing 10 points, six rebounds and five assists against Minnesota. "We can't look that far down. We've just got to take care of the task in front of us and that's one thing we've doing for most of the year successfully and we want to continue to do that."
Big Ten player of the year candidate Keita Bates-Diop again led Ohio State against Minnesota with his eighth double-double of the season, finishing with game highs of 17 points and 12 rebounds. The redshirt junior became the 55th Buckeye player to surpass 1,000 career points.
Freshman center Kaleb Wesson contributed 15 points and eight rebounds for the Buckeyes, who have two of their last three opponents below 50 points.
That victory allowed the Buckeyes to equal last year's win total with 10 regular-season games remaining. They also remain tied atop the conference standings with third-ranked Purdue (19-2, 8-0). Ohio State has won 12 of its last 13 games, with the only loss to No. 5 North Carolina on a neutral court in late December.
After Bates-Diop got off to a slow start against Minnesota, Ohio State rallied and then pulled away. Bates-Diop was just 7 of 21 from the field and 0 of 6 on 3-point shots, but he is avearging a Big Ten-leading 19.7 points and 8.9 rebounds per game.
"I just think it's impossible to expect the kind of efficiency and numbers throughout a season when you're getting the attention that he's getting," Holtmann said. "I didn't expect it. I've got to try to put him in some spots a little bit better hopefully and he's got to embrace the physicality that people are attacking him with right now."
Nebraska would like to come into Columbus and knock off Ohio State. The Cornhuskers received a big shot of confidence after a resounding 72-52 upset of then-No. 23 Michigan on Thursday night in Lincoln, Neb.
It was Nebraska's first win over Michigan since 1964, its largest margin of victory over a ranked opponent since 2004 and Michigan's lowest point total of the season. James Palmer led the Cornhuskers, who shot 54 percent from the field, with 19 points.
Nebraska is sitting in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten standings but has designs on contending for an NCAA Tournament berth at the end of the year. Monday's game might be the last chance in the regular season to prove itself against a ranked opponent.
The Cornhuskers' conference record is their best at this stage of the season since 2005-06 while a member of the Big 12.
"I guess I would say it's where I hoped we would be. It's what I thought we could do," Nebraska coach Tim Miles said. "I told the guys I was proud of them, but now we're going to expect you to keep doing it, you know?"
The trip to Columbus begins a stretch of four games in eight days for Nebraska that includes three on the road. The Cornhuskers have won seven of their last nine.
"I would hope we're in a good place," Miles said. "I think this is a five- or six-bid league, personally, and I want to be one of those. And you can't be one of those unless you get there eventually, so the sooner the better."